Yasmin Reynoso (BA Sociology, ’20) is the proud daughter of Mexican parents. When she was growing up, they reminded her constantly about the importance of hard work and education. “I heard it all the time,” she said, smiling. ‘Go to school, go to school, go to school.”
And she did. Reynoso is a first-generation college student, like many at Roosevelt University. When she first arrived at the Chicago Campus, she felt like she had to navigate the world of higher education on her own.
The transfer student couldn’t turn to anyone in her big, supportive family for help with the FAFSA application, difficult courses and impostor syndrome. “I grew up believing that I had to do everything alone and that asking for help was a sign of weakness,” she said. “It has taken me a long time to realize that what I was feeling was valid.”
Through the Office of Multicultural Student Support Services (MSSS) and the McNair Scholars Program, Reynoso met other first-generation students with the same challenges. The programs made her feel welcomed and encouraged. And maybe most importantly, she said, she learned that it was okay to ask for help.
“These two programs have given me all kinds of support, and I am constantly inspired by their work,” said Reynoso.
MSSS connected Reynoso with career readiness programs, workshops and guest speakers, backed by the Annual Fund for Student Success. The support goes beyond career advice.
“Pamela [Thompson-Hill] takes an interest in everyone that comes through the office and ensures that we know of any opportunities happening on campus and in the greater city of Chicago,” Reynoso said. “What I have found is that having a strong community that supports you and sees you truly is everything.”
Reynoso decided to major in sociology after taking several introductory classes that explored patterns of social injustice. As a McNair Scholar, Reynoso worked closely with Dr. Mike Maly and Dr. Laura Nussbaum-Barberena to study the unequal distribution of housing choice vouchers. She presented her findings at three conferences, most recently at the Latinx Excellence in the Midwest Conference.
“This has been such a rewarding learning experience for me,” Reynoso said. “Getting to share this project with others has generated inspiring and thought-provoking conversations. My mentors have been instrumental in showing me that I am capable of so much more.”
The Roosevelt senior shared her story at a recent #CelebrateFirstGen event on campus. The annual mixer honored the passage of the 1965 Higher Education Act, which expanded educational opportunities for low-income students.
“We need to recognize that first-gen students are assets, rather than a problem to be fixed,” said Amanda Wornhoff, Roosevelt’s assistant provost of core curriculum and assessment. “We need to focus on the valuable perspectives, ideas and ways of thinking that students from diverse backgrounds bring to our campuses, and how we can harness their contributions to improve our practices.”
Now Reynoso wants to pay it forward.
The Roosevelt student works in the MSSS office as a program assistant, gaining hands-on experience for a career in higher education administration. She is applying to master’s programs so she can help underrepresented college students overcome the obstacles she once faced.
“It’s important for us to know that we don’t have to face these challenges alone,” she said. “We’re the trailblazers, we’re capable, we’re determined, and we definitely deserve to be here.”